Who Is Andy Serkis Playing In 'Star Wars'?

Spoilerphobes should be happy with the pace at which Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams have adopted when it comes to releasing tiny tidbits about the year's most hotly-anticipated cinematic event, Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens . Abrams has plenty of practice with maintaining secrecy thanks to his work on such tight-lipped projects as LOST, Cloverfield, Super 8, and Star Trek Into Darkness — but it's still remarkable in this day and age that anyone is able to control the flow of information surrounding one of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history. For the most part, fans have only learned details about the film when Abrams has wanted us to... and that includes Thursday, when the official website StarWars.com released the first scoop on the character Andy Serkis will be playing in Star Wars: Episode VII.

Although Serkis is best known for his motion-capture work in roles like Lord Of The Rings' Gollum, Planet Of The Apes' Caesar, and King Kong's titular ape, the actor has turned in his fair share of live-action performances as well — most recently as future Black Panther villain Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age Of Ultron . So, while it was probably best not to assume anything about Serkis' Star Wars role, it's was a relief to officially learn Thursday that he'll once again be donning a polka-dotted suit and doing what he does best: bringing an animated character to believable life.

In the photo above — a follow-up to famous photographer Annie Leibovitz's Star Wars spread for Vanity Fair — fans get their first glimpse at the nature of Serkis' role. He's the second cast member so far confirmed to be playing a fully computer-generated role, after Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave), who, according to reports, will appear as roguish pirate captain Maz Kanata. As for Serkis, we finally have a name to put to the actor's mysterious character: Supreme Leader Snoke.

Other than his name and the fact that he'll be computer animated, absolutely nothing else is known about this character... but his moniker does raise some tantalizing possibilities. One prospect is that Snoke will be the peaceful ruler of the new post-Empire society, whose likely assassination sends the galaxy spiraling into another civil war. But, think about it — do you really think Abrams would waste Serkis' magnetic presence on a short-lived good guy?

The more likely option seems to be that Supreme Leader Snoke could essentially be the new Emperor Palpatine. Most speculation until now has centered around Adam Driver's Kylo Ren (aka the one wielding the already iconic three-pronged lightsaber) as The Force Awakens' main villain — and while Kylo Ren may very well be the "big bad" of Episode VII, it's seeming more and more likely to me that he's a mere puppet for the real villain — much like Darth Vader in the original trilogy, or Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.

So, will Snoke rival Sméagol as Serkis' greatest creation yet? Sadly, we'll have to wait another seven months to find out.